Chip could detect bird flu in advance of outbreak

The chip enables testing 10 times faster than current options and could be 100 times cheaper when commercialized. (Photo: Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology)

September 25, 2007 — A lab-on-a-chip device that could detect the bird flu virus before any serious outbreaks occur has been developed by a team of scientists working at several institutions in Singapore. Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and Genome Institute of Singapore, in a paper published in Nature Medicine, say the device can detect the avian flu virus (H5N1) less than a half-hour after an on-site throat swab.

“The novelty of our method lies in the way that the droplet itself becomes a pump, valve, mixer, solid-phase extractor and real-time thermocycler,” said lead scientist Juergen Pipper. “Complex biochemical tasks can thus be processed in a fashion similar to that of a traditional biological laboratory on a miniature scale.” The researchers say the test is 10 times faster than those currently available and could be as much as 100 times cheaper when it is commercialized.


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